The Rev. Dr. P.M. Smith, Pastor of Huber Memorial Church shared memories of his childhood, recalling a conversation that took place more than 60 years ago, involving him, his junior high school counselor, and his mother.
“I went to a totally segregated school system…secondhand furniture…secondhand facilities, but first-class teachers,” recalled Pastor Smith. “I wanted to go to Frederick Douglass High School, but my counselor told me to get my mother up to the school to tell me to go to City College. That generation of educators knew that integration was coming. And they made up their mind that they were going to send the ones who could compete in that environment. School and being capable of success was put on my radar screen at an early age.”
He added, “I was taught to get anywhere in life, you need an education. The people who told me this included my parents who didn’t have an education. My parents never got out the sixth grade. They never talked about racism. The only thing they said about white people, was that you have to be twice as good. That did not excuse me, depress me, or put me down. It challenged me. And when I got to City, my relatives, along with the people who taught me in a segregated school system, had prepared me to compete.”
It was this mindset for success that was the catalyst for Pastor Smith to found The H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Excel) Academy, a ten-year vision of the Baltimore native and members of Huber Memorial Church. Huber’s physical plant and grounds consist of The Huber Community Life Center, 5700 Loch Raven Blvd.: Huber Memorial Church, 5701 York Road, and The H.O.P.E. Academy/Huber Child Development Center, 1808 Edison Highway.
The H.O.P.E. Academy provides a quality, low-cost education in a Christian environment and promotes the principle that excellence is a noble and achievable goal. The school opened in September 1996 .The school’s motto is, ‘Where Excellence Is Expected.’
Pastor Smith graduated from Baltimore City College in 1965. He went on to attend Coppin State College (now University), where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education in 1969. He earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Michigan in 1973.
“I did well at City, and I did well at the University of Michigan Law School,” said Pastor Smith. “Had it not been for that classic education I got in a segregated school system, I would not have gone to the University of Michigan, and I would not have practiced law in two states for 10 years. The village we used to live in when I was growing up as a child, no longer exists when it comes to our children. So, my attitude is that we owe the next generation because that is what the previous generation gave us. We owe our kids a good, quality education.”
According to Pastor Smith, The H.O.P.E. Academy’s curriculum is attentive to the mind, body, and soul, and is achieved through literature, mathematics, the arts and sciences, foreign language, physical
education, and bible study.
“They are going to learn their 123s and ABCs, but what’s more important is that we identify, transmit and commit Christian, traditional, and biblical values in our students”, said Pastor Smith.
From 1973 to 1983, Pastor Smith practiced criminal law in Michigan and then Maryland.
Pastor Smith said despite his successful career as a criminal attorney, he left the legal profession completely and began to preach full-time. He was ordained on March 20, 1983.
“Although winning cases was something I did well, winning souls for the Lord was something I did best,” said Pastor Smith, who is married to Delores Stanton Smith. They have two children, Tehma and Ade.
Pastor Smith, who is 75, said he was named after his grandfather Phenious Madison Smith, and that the name itself came with great expectations.
“My mother’s name was Cleo, and whenever we went down the country, people would ask her, ‘Which one of your boys is named after your father?’ And she pointed to me, and they looked at me like they expected something from me because I had my grandfather’s name and they had great respect for him. They had high expectations of me, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. That’s what we do for our kids at The H.O.P.E. Academy. We elevate them.”
He added, “The number one success of The H.O.P.E. Academy is longevity. Since our inception, we have been preparing the next generation to compete and succeed in an environment and culture that going to be hostile towards them through our ‘spiritual immunity system.’ We vaccinate our kids with the Word of God to protect them from the culture.”
Coming next week: Hope Academy Part 2.